Another iteration of the Caldicott Principles coming down the track. Could this help with future local lockdowns?

The launch of this consultation is timely. Leicester is set to see an extended lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. But could this have been better managed? Reports in the FT suggest that a delay in sharing Covid-19 test data delayed the city’s response.

The National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care seeks views on its consultation on revising and expanding the Caldicott Principles

Every NHS organisation has had to have a Caldicott Guardian since 1998 and every local authority with adult social care responsibilities has been required to do so since 2002. Originally six good practice principles were recommended for use of confidential information in the NHS but a review in 2013 introduced a new principle to encourage good information sharing in the best interests of patients and between the health and social care sectors – this being: “The duty to share information can be as important as the duty to protect patient confidentiality.”

The NDG’s role was placed on a statutory footing in 2018 when the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Act was passed granting them power to issue official guidance about the processing of health and adult social care data in England. Dame Fiona Caldicott, who had held the non-statutory NDG role since 2014 became the first statutory post holder in April 2019.

The NDG is seeking views on:

  • Proposed revisions to the seven existing Caldicott Principles;
  • Proposed extension of the Caldicott Principles through the introduction of an additional principle which makes clear that patients’ and service users’ expectations must be considered and informed when confidential information is used;
  • The proposal that the NDG uses her statutory power to issue guidance about organisations appointing Caldicott Guardians to uphold the Caldicott Principles.

So, what’s changing?

Annex A of the consultation document includes the proposed new set of eight Caldicott Principles. The proposals include clarification on the use of and access to confidential information within health and social care organisation, from health and social care organisations to other organisations and between individuals

There is the extra Caldicott Principle too – Principle 8: Inform the expectations of patients and service users about how their confidential information is to be used.

The introduction of this new principle reflects the direction that the courts have taken in making an individual’s reasonable expectations of privacy the touchstone of the duty of confidentiality. Equally, it would align with the General Data Protection Regulations emphasis on transparency and data subject rights. It would also align with professional guidance such as the General Medical Council’s, Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information.

In short, steps should be taken to ensure ‘no surprises’ for patients about how their confidential information is to be used and, this should include an accessible way to opt out.

Annex B includes the previous seven Caldicott Principles, marked up to show proposed changes which will greatly assist those looking to respond to the consultation.

Responding to the consultation – and by 3 September

Comments are invited from the public, patients and service users, health and social care providers, clinicians, care professionals and other health and care staff. You can share your views by completing the online survey here.

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